Turei versus Tolley on benefit fraud

Metiria Turei continues to attract much of the media attention on her stand on benefit fraud.

Stuff:  Greens co-leader Metiria Turei won’t report woman committing benefit fraud

On Tuesday Turei confirmed she had met with a woman while travelling in the South Island last week who told her about a flatmate with a baby “who is doing exactly what I did”.

“She’s trying very hard to be the best Mum she can be but she isn’t telling WINZ about all her flatmates and I won’t condemn her.”

Turei was completely against the idea of dobbing her in to the authorities and said her job now was to “make sure nobody needs to make those choices”.

“I’ve had people come and disclose to me their circumstances and I’ll never abuse that trust.

What I will do is fix the system so they never have to lie again.”

I think that an MP is obliged to keep conversations with constituents confidential. What is different here is Turei choosing to talk about something like this publicly, using constituent confessions to promote her agenda.

But Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said members of parliament had “certain obligations” and while there’s laws people don’t agree with it doesn’t mean people “shouldn’t abide by those laws”.

“My advice to anyone struggling is to go and talk to their case manager, because sometimes there’s stuff that can be done, so that’s the advice I hope Metiria, or any member of parliament, is giving to someone who is really struggling,” she said.

There’s no doubt that Turei means well, but she is on potentially shaky ground if she approves of instances of benefit fraud.

Turei has proposed WINZ operate an “amnesty” for people who have broken the law so they can approach a case manager and not be judged.

An amnesty for any law breaking no matter how serious? Writing off all past instances of fraud? This is tricky territory, especially for an MP.

In Question Time in Parliament today:

9. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she believe that the Ministry of Social Development has a responsibility to treat unemployed people, sole parents, and people with disabilities with respect and dignity, and ensure every person on a benefit has all the support they are entitled to?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I believe that the ministry should treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of whether they are on a benefit or not.

Metiria Turei: Does she think that her ministry lives up to this standard, given the hundreds of examples made public this week describing denigrating and obstructive responses by Work and Income deliberately denying people their entitlements?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have travelled all over New Zealand and have been into Work and Income offices and talked with staff. I have never met anyone yet who is not absolutely passionate about helping people get back on their feet, get into work, and live successful lives.

Metiria Turei: Given that a recent study into grandparents seeking financial support has found that “the service standards published by Work and Income are continually breached, not displayed in offices and are not subject to a complaints procedure, …” will she commit to changing the punitive culture in Work and Income so that it focuses on giving people the help when they need it?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The benefit that the member is referring to is the unsupported orphans benefit. I think that is the name of it. There are procedures that do take a long time to process—determining whether or not a child is in the full care of a grandparent. I have met with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren on a number of occasions. What I can say to the member is that this issue in particular is being addressed through the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which focuses on the needs of the child and, therefore, will enable much better support, I believe, to be wrapped around any people who are taking care of those children and in particular, grandparents.

Sarah Dowie: What recent actions has the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) taken to ensure people do receive the support they are entitled to?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We have been working our way through a number of issues to ensure that the practice aligns with the legislation and that people do receive their full entitlements. For example, one issue that was identified was a coding error that meant some clients were being paid the accommodation supplement at the wrong rate. When this was discovered, MSD took the appropriate action to reimburse 22,000 current clients at around $14 million and undertook to identify previous clients who may have been underpaid. MSD is absolutely committed to ensuring that people get the support that they are entitled to.

Metiria Turei: When Work and Income tells 85 percent of grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren that they are not entitled to benefits that they should in fact be receiving, will she instruct Work and Income to review every case to ensure every single person on a benefit is receiving their full entitlement?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am not aware of where that figure comes from. If it comes from a survey that was done recently, then I would question the assertion that that relates to all grandparents. As I have said, there is a process by which Work and Income has to be satisfied that the grandparent now has the full care of and responsibility for the child, and that does cause, from time to time, some lengthy delays. As I say, this has been raised with me on a number of occasions by the organisation representing those grandparents, and we are addressing it as best as we are able to.

Metiria Turei: When so many stories of people being driven into poverty and despair by the broken welfare system have emerged in this last week, will she instruct the MSD to hold an amnesty for every current beneficiary—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh! Now we get to it.

Metiria Turei: —for every current beneficiary, so not me, Minister—so that they can talk to Work and Income about—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member complete her question. It is a very long question.

Metiria Turei:—so that they can talk to Work and Income about their full entitlement without risking investigation or financial punishment?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: First of all, I reject the assumption that the social welfare system that this country so proudly has is broken. In fact, on the contrary, I would say the results—that people are working very hard throughout New Zealand—have shown a record number of people coming off reliance on a benefit and into work. Sixty thousand children in New Zealand now no longer live in houses dependant on a benefit, and I think that is a huge success for this country and a huge success for the people who are now living totally independent lives, able to support themselves and their families.

Metiria Turei: Why will the Minister not hold an amnesty for current beneficiaries when she cannot guarantee that every parent on a benefit has enough money to feed their kids and pay their power bills this winter without having to ask for extra assistance?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I think the member forgets that this Government was the first Government in over 40 years to raise the amount of money paid to beneficiaries—the first Government in 40 years. There is no doubt that it is difficult to manage on a benefit, but that is why the staff at Work and Income work so hard with families to help them into sustainable employment, because the best way out of poverty is to be self-reliant, to be independent, and to be able to be working in New Zealand supporting their own families.

Metiria Turei: How many beneficiaries are currently homeless?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I suggest the member puts that down in a written question.

Metiria Turei: Given the Minister does not know how many current beneficiaries are homeless, how can she agree with the use of financial sanctions to threaten the poorest people in New Zealand with worsened poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Sanctions are only ever applied after several warnings, and are only applied when people do not comply with their obligations. Some of those obligations are very simple—turning up for an appointment. If there is a good reason, the sanction is not applied. It is very easy for people to re-comply, but there has to be some accountability when you are abusing spending taxpayers’ money.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Minister believe that it is OK for the Government to use poverty as a weapon against solo mums and their children, disabled people, and homeless people who have already lost everything?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I completely refute the assertions of that member.

Metiria Turei: How many people on a benefit have committed suicide in the last 5 years?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not believe that the MSD has ever collected those sorts of statistics.

Turei is on a roll. She also had this oped published: Children shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ choices

I also revealed that as a single mother and law student in the 1990s, I lied to Work and Income about how many flatmates I had.

Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve revealed on social media, and who’ve told me in person, that my story was theirs too, or their mother’s, or someone else they know. It’s been unexpected, and very powerful.

Section 70A requires single parents to name the father of their child, or risk losing their benefit.

This particular sanction is currently being handed down to 14,000 single parents, almost all of whom are mums. They are having up to $28 per week per child taken off them. The victims of this punitive and nasty law are the more than 17,000 kids who are then being deprived of that money – money that could be spent on food, or school books, or for paying the power bill so they can keep the heater on in their bedroom this winter.

Why anyone believes that children should be punished for their parents’ choices is beyond me. And why is taking money from a mother and her kids the only option if the state wants to track down the father? The Government is essentially holding kids’ welfare to ransom.

I have no doubt that some women, mostly women, are put in very difficult situations. Cutting benefits for non-compliance is tough on some.

But a much higher benefit with a no questions, no responsibility approach is fraught with unintended and predictable consequences.

A comfortable house and a comfortable income for everyone is a great ideal, but if it results in too many people choosing not to work because there’s no need then our society could end up in a serious situation.


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  July 25, 2017

    I know that the grandparents organisation advises people to leave a child or two with the parents so as not to stop their income.

    There MUST be checks to make sure that the grandparents really are keeping the grandchildren-otherwise unscrupulous families could be using WINZ to give them a huge income with everyone claiming for the children !

    The non-disclosure of father’s name is covered by the fact that in some cases the mother can be excused (rape, incest, violent relationship with the ex) so MT is setting up straw men here. She can’t really believe that it’s all right to have children not knowing who their father is-and potentially ending up in incestuous relationships with half-brothers and sisters.

  2. PDB

     /  July 25, 2017

    Like inflating child poverty figures makes it difficult for the govt to directly assist the low number of children facing real poverty so too does welfare fraud stop the relatively low number in desperate need of additional welfare getting more financial help from the govt.

    Basically if there wasn’t so many people ripping off the welfare system there would be far more money available to those in real need.

    • PDB

       /  July 25, 2017

      It’s a bit like these obviously starving individuals lining up for Christmas pudd at the Auckland City Mission…….

      • Is that the gorgeous Nanaia Mahuta in the lacy black number?

        • PDB

           /  July 25, 2017

          It should be noted the hungry kid in real poverty with her hands on her head missed out when they ran out of food…….

        • Gezza

           /  July 26, 2017

          trav! 😡

  3. Geoffrey

     /  July 25, 2017

    At what point of extended institutional largess would Turei allow that continued fraud was no longer acceptable? Is there any level?

    It might just be that the present benefit is indeed inadequate and that the hundreds who manage within it are being unduly challenged. It might also just be that those who, as well as benefiting from their family support, run an informal tenancy business and who still choose to thieve from the State (you and me) are deserving of immediate and severe sanction.

    Are we so immature as a society that we by will tolerate any exploitation by any citizen who has the gall to stare us down? Or is our tolerance reserved for just some people? Perhaps: consider what might have resulted if the self-confessed thief were an unemployed solo dad who stole because he was finding things tough on the benefit, did not know enough about the system to lawfully augment that benefit, and who enjoyed no support what-so-ever from his first generation migrant parents from the UK. I suspect that society would not stand by praising his initiative.

    Turei, on the other hand, is an informed and relatively well educated person. As such, her boundless arrogance and lack of remorse is simply offensive. For her to continue to hold office as a member of parliament, after announcing such a deliberate theft, is a total nonsense. For her to harbour aspirations of future Cabinet rank is beyond absurd.

    • Brown

       /  July 25, 2017

      ”is an informed and relatively well educated person”

      I wonder about that. She does dumb, illegal stuff and thinks nothing of it so she is either stupid to an embarrassing degree (so is neither well informed nor educated despite having wallowed through uni) or an informed and educated trougher which makes her an expensive taxpayer funded crook without remorse for clearly wrong acts. Which one?

      I hate everything this woman stands for and look forward to meeting some Greens in the street so I can suggest a trigger warning because even their logo will piss me right off.

      • Geoffrey

         /  July 25, 2017

        I am suggesting that Turei is more highly educated than the average Kiwi and informed to the extent that she has acquired an undergraduate Law degree. Her hubris is such that she would appear to see no wrong in her blatant theft. It is that which I feel renders her unfit for Parliamentary office. Prisoners who show no remorse are denied parole and remain disenfranchised. Why should Turei, whose confession amounts to a conviction, be treated any differently?

  4. One of a kind

     /  July 25, 2017

    Well Turei is certainly locking up the solo mum benefit cheating voting block.

    Never mind the environmentally conscious voters – those frauds are where the votes are.

    I’m sure they will all take time out to waddle down to their closest school to vote on 23 Sept.

    Turei = Greens less than 10% I reckon.

  5. duperez

     /  July 25, 2017

    Speaking of grandparents and WINZ:

    “The paper documents significant problems by many of the grandparents in gaining access to the UCB.” (unsupported child benefit.)


  6. Ms Turei is a benefit cheat – self admitted. Has assisted, for a period or still, in hiding the identity of the father of her child so he could AVOID making he is required contribution to the State in return for the State supporting his child – aiding and abetting someone in avoiding their lawful obligations.

    How she can consider herself fit for a ministerial post is beyond belief.

    • duperez

       /  July 25, 2017

      Good question. A Minister can lie to us and be considered fit for a ministerial post by herself and the public. That is history, that is the way it is. Does Ms Turei have some obligation to be at a higher standard?

      • Geoffrey

         /  July 25, 2017

        Minister Tolley would do herself and us a service by simply condemning the theft. Her use of such softening devices as “should not” (steal) is designed to have a quid each way.

      • Oh I think a greens MP, given the holy than thou attitude they take on all manner of issues – esp MeTu, need to be cleaner than clean… or their brand image becomes sullied.

        Metiria help shield a man from paying his dues to support his child. I can’t and won’t forgive that and neither will thousands of others, like me, who never welched on our Child Support obligations …..

        She is not fit to hold office as a minister – its pretty straight forward. This would be a sackable offence if reveal when she held a ministerial warrant, therefore it should preclude her from ever obtaining one in the future

        Then the self admitted falsely filling in a benefit application form and defrauding the tax pay on top just reinforces her unfitness for a senior government role

        And yes I know you have a Collins fixation – and I tend to agree that Judith shouldn’t hold a warrant anymore after the Oravida debacle… very poor judgment

        • duperez

           /  July 25, 2017

          You do not know I have a Collins fixation – you think I have a Collins fixation. I don’t but do suffer from a couple of other afflictions. One is having a weird background which included attending a church school. Another is being brought up in a home where not telling the truth was at the level of the threat of a death sentence.

          The most telling though, probably nurtured through those other two, and watered by naivety, is the notion that truth, justice and honour should be exemplified no less than totally in a role such as the Minister of Justice. Any fixation is about that. Naturally too comes a consequential fixation and dismay of the so easy tolerance of anything less and the ready acceptance of something considerably less.

          That Collins came to your mind shows that you at least have some sense of what I was getting at. You then shared your reservations. Others didn’t, wouldn’t, won’t acknowledge there was even a situation worthy of reservations. Not even a summary “very poor judgment.” It was business as usual, just move on.

          Do you reckon you’ll reach a stage of saying of Turei, “Very poor judgment” and just move on? Those who should’ve gone to Specsavers for Collins, didn’t, yet for Turei managed to make their way to the cutlery drawer to find the sharpest tool which they fervently employ.

          • Gezza

             /  July 26, 2017

            You can sometimes be so discursive your message or meaning gets obscured in the verbiage. But in this case my impression is people are polarised in their opinion. I can’t recall anyone here giving Collins a free pass on Oravida, dupers. But these two situations are not related in any way, in my opinion. And

            I find myself in agreement with the views expressed here that Ms Turei has wilfully committed an offence of the type which adversely impacts thousands of beneficiarie who remain honest & do not rip off the Social Welfare system.

            Because what thousands like her have habitually done, all beneficiaries are now placed under suspicion of being possibly likely to do the same & constant & sometimes stressful checks are now made on all of them, because it is the nature of bureaucracies to devise & employ rules & processes they can implement across the board to keep things simple & consistent. I think she should be sanctioned. She should not ever hold a Ministerial post.

            There are legitimate ways to seek to change what some might consider inadequate assistance. Taxpayers, working people – whether rich, doing ok, or poor, should not be expected to fund the care & upbringing of other peoples’ children simply because they want to have them, or are too just too drunk or otherwise careless to prevent them happening.

            The DPB is meant to assist those in genuine need thru circumstances not of their own making where no other support is available, imo.

            It’s not a moral judgement I’m making here. I consider it a simple black & white, objective assessment, altho I accept we will probably disagree.

          • Turei and move on for me will never be the sentiment.

            I paid child support as a Uni student in the early nineties. MeTu connived to make sure her babys father didn’t get harass by the state for his child support by not naming him on the birth certificate and refusing to name him when applying for state benefits.

            The minimum obligation was a tenner a week at the time, I know because that was what was demanded from me by IRD when I was a student – but no MeTu connived to avoid the impost on their lifestyle….

            There are thousands of blokes like me who took responsibility – copped the assessment from IRD and paid up. We didn’t ask our childs mother to withhold our names or lie to the state.

            On this one thing alone she is debarred from a warrant in my personal view

            But even worse she knowingly signed legal declarations when applying for state benefits knowing they were false. Repeatedly if the reports in the media are correct, over a number of years. And all why studying the Law at Uni!!!!!

            Collins visited Oravida while on a state visit in China – which should have been avoided or at least declared/managed as a conflict of interest due to Collins husbands involvement with Oravida. It was silly to put herself in a situation where she could be seen as endorsing, officially, Oravida in anyway

            Did Collins repeat the mistake over a prolonged, years and years, period? No. Did she defraud the state willfully? No. Did she not tell the truth about the visit? I don’t recall the sequence of responses in the house clearly but if I recall correctly she wasn’t straight up and that’s what cause the problem. She should have handled it differently I believe

            Collins exercised very poor judgment. She didn’t hatch and execute an ongoing systematic defrauding of the State by repeatedly signing false declarations, based on the reporting I have seen I believe this statement to be correct.

            The two scenarios are very different in my view – poor judgment versus a knowing and willfully executed, systematic set of actions

  7. Tipene

     /  July 25, 2017


    Turei is so far, far removed from the mood of the nation on this one, that she doesn’t recognise that the moral high ground she believes she is standing on is actually quicksand slowly consuming her and her Party, albeit at a growing rapidity in pace.

    The WINZ investigation isn’t going to be over before the Election, so the entire Green Party has the taint of “FRAUD” smearing its entire campaign.

    All the activists of any other Party has to do is head out to the hustings, scrawl the word “FRAUD” across the front of each Green Party election sign, and that’s the campaign over for the Greens fin 2017.

    Could this be the year that the Greens drop below the 5% threshold as a result of this self-righteous “bumblefuck” by Turei?

    • Alloytoo

       /  July 26, 2017

      In so far as the Greens believe the end justifies the means, surely they can’t complain when their posters are neatly defaced with words like “fraud”, “thief” and “liar”. After all the end (getting the Greens out of Parliament) certainly justifies the means.

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